HALL v. HALL et al
ORDER GRANTING 17 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim; GRANTING 21 Motion to Dismiss Complaint and REFERRING to the United States Bankruptcy Court 27 Plaintiff's Motion for Contempt. Ordered by US DISTRICT JUDGE MARC THOMAS TREADWELL on 11/7/2017. (tlh)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
RICHARD LEWIS HALL, JR.,
SUSAN HALL, et al.,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 5:17-CV-82 (MTT)
Defendants Susan Hall, Sheriff Cullen Talton, and Carolyn Sullivan have moved
to dismiss Plaintiff Richard Lewis Hall, Jr.’s complaint. (Docs. 17; 21). The Court
converted those motions into motions for summary judgment. Doc. 32. The motions
The Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, claims that Defendant Hall, who works for the
Division of Child Support Services of Houston County, Georgia, Defendant Talton, the
Sheriff of Houston County, Georgia, and Defendant Sullivan, the Clerk of the Superior
Court of Houston County, Georgia conspired to violate his constitutional rights. Doc. 15
at 10-13. Because the Plaintiff is not represented by legal counsel, the Court construes
the Plaintiff’s complaint liberally. Tannenbaum v. United States, 148 F.3d 1262, 1263
(11th Cir. 1998). Liberally construed, the Plaintiff’s complaint asserts claims based on
violations of due process, equal protection, and his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment
rights, including claims of false arrest, false imprisonment, and conspiracy to violate
those constitutional rights. See Doc. 15 at 10-13. Generally, the Plaintiff contends that,
as a part of a paternity dispute, the Defendants colluded to “manufacture” a fraudulent
DNA test stating the Plaintiff was the father of a minor child. Id. The Defendants then
used that fraudulent DNA test to subject the Plaintiff to unlawful court proceedings and
to force him to pay child support. Id. Then, according to the Plaintiff, the Defendants
used that same DNA test and fraudulent arrest records to falsely arrest and imprison
him for various offenses, including failure to pay child support. Id.
The Plaintiff filed his complaint on February 28, 2017. Doc. 1. With the Court’s
permission, he then filed an amended complaint on March 15, 2017. Doc. 15. The
Defendants then separately moved to dismiss the Plaintiff’s claims on the grounds that
they were barred by the statute of limitations. Docs. 17; 21. In response to these
motions, the Plaintiff submitted materials outside the pleadings for consideration by the
Court. Docs. 20; 26. In light of the Plaintiff’s pro se status, the Court found it
appropriate to consider these materials and thus converted the Defendants’ motions to
dismiss into motions for summary judgment.1 Doc. 32. The Court then advised the
Plaintiff of his obligations under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) and allowed 14 days for the parties
to submit any further pertinent factual information. Id. at 2. The Plaintiff submitted no
additional information. So, now before the Court are the Defendants’ separate motions
for summary judgment. For the reasons described below, those motions are
GRANTED, and the Plaintiff’s claims are DISMISSED. Additionally, the Plaintiff’s
request for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order is DENIED, and his
In converting the Defendants’ motions into motions for summary judgment, the Court also noted that
doing so alleviated concerns regarding the Defendants’ choice to raise the affirmative defense of statute
of limitations in a motion to dismiss. Doc. 32 at 1 n.1. These concerns included “to what degree the
Plaintiff was required to plead facts to overcome the statute of limitations bar.” Id. (citing Amy v.
Anderson, 2017 WL 1098823, at *1 n.1 (M.D. Ga.)).
Motion for Contempt is REFERRED to the United States Bankruptcy Court for the
Middle District of Georgia.
II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
A court must grant summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). A factual dispute is not genuine unless, based on
the evidence presented, “‘a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.’” Info. Sys. & Networks Corp. v. City of Atlanta, 281 F.3d 1220, 1224 (11th Cir.
2002) (quoting United States v. Four Parcels of Real Prop., 941 F.2d 1428, 1437 (11th
Cir. 1991)); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The
movant may support its assertion that a fact is undisputed by “citing to particular parts of
materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of
the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(c)(1)(A). “When the nonmoving party has the burden of proof at trial, the moving
party is not required to ‘support its motion with affidavits or other similar material
negating the opponent's claim’ in order to discharge this ‘initial responsibility.’” Four
Parcels of Real Prop., 941 F.2d at 1437-38 (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323 (1986)). Rather, “the moving party simply may show[ ]—that is, point[ ] out to
the district court—that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s
case.” Id. (alterations in original) (quotation marks and citation omitted). Alternatively,
the movant may provide “affirmative evidence demonstrating that the nonmoving party
will be unable to prove its case at trial.” Id.
The burden then shifts to the non-moving party, who must rebut the movant’s
showing “by producing . . . relevant and admissible evidence beyond the pleadings.”
Josendis v. Wall to Wall Residence Repairs, Inc., 662 F.3d 1292, 1315 (11th Cir. 2011)
(citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)). The non-moving party does
not satisfy its burden “if the rebuttal evidence ‘is merely colorable, or is not significantly
probative’ of a disputed fact.” Id. (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50). Further,
where a party fails to address another party’s assertion of fact as required by Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56(c), the Court may consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2). However, “credibility determinations, the weighing of the
evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not
those of a judge. . . . The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all
justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.
III. THE PLAINTIFF’S FEDERAL CLAIMS
Section 1983 Claims
The Defendants argue the Plaintiff’s § 1983 claims are barred by the applicable
statute of limitations. Section 1983 does not have its own statute of limitations but
borrows the forum state’s personal injury statute of limitations. Reynolds v. Murray, 170
F. App’x 49, 50 (11th Cir. 2006); Lovett v. Ray, 327 F.3d 1181, 1182 (11th Cir. 2003).
In Georgia, § 1983 claims have a two-year statute of limitations. Wilson v. Hamilton,
135 F. App’x 213, 214 (11th Cir. 2005).
It is undisputed that the latest event that could support the Plaintiff’s claims that
his Fourth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, due process, and equal protection
rights were violated occurred on November 29, 2014 when he was allegedly falsely
arrested and imprisoned for driving with a suspended license. Docs. 20 at 1; 20-1; 203. The Plaintiff was released on December 2, 2014, and so any claim based on this
arrest accrued, at the latest, on that date. Doc. 20-3 at 2; Brown v. Lewis, 361 F. App’x
51, 55 (11th Cir. 2010) (“A claim for false arrest and false imprisonment must be
brought within two years of the [arrestee]’s release from imprisonment.”); Hawk v.
Pearson, 2010 WL 3724198, at *2 (N.D. Ga.) (“A claim of false arrest and false
imprisonment accrues when the plaintiff is released from the alleged false
imprisonment.”). Accordingly, absent a basis for tolling, any claims based on his
November 29, 2014 arrest are time-barred because the statute of limitations ran, at the
latest, on December 2, 2016, more than two months before the Plaintiff filed his initial
complaint on February 28, 2017.
“Georgia law provides for statutory tolling for actions involving people who suffer
from certain disabilities, unrepresented estates, people absent from the state, and
cases of fraud.” Salas v. Pierce, 297 F. App’x 874, 877 (11th Cir. 2008). Although the
Plaintiff does not allege that any fraud on the part of the Defendants deterred him from
filing his claims timely, he does, as noted, allege the Defendants fraudulently concocted
DNA evidence. Doc. 15 at 12-16. Accordingly, out of an abundance of caution, the
Court addresses whether the allegations upon which the Plaintiff bases his fraud claim
could have tolled the statute of limitations. Id. at 10-13. The crux of the Plaintiff’s fraud
claim is the allegedly fraudulent DNA test. See id. at 10-13. He alleges that the
Defendants concocted the DNA test to defraud him out of child support payments and
that the Defendants then, as a part of that scheme, arrested him using false
documentation. Id. But the Plaintiff has known since 2005 that the DNA test was
fraudulent. Id. at 10. Then, he argued in a court proceeding that the test was fraudulent
and that he had never taken such a test. Id. Thus, his § 1983 claims would only be
tolled until 2005, at the latest, when he was clearly aware of the fraud. Ash v. Douglas
Cty., 2015 WL 12591772, at *6 (N.D. Ga.) (quotation marks omitted) (quoting O.C.G.A.
§ 9-3-96) (“[Fraud] only tolls the limitations period until the plaintiff’s discovery of the
The Court notes that the Plaintiff appears to allege a separate act on the part of
Defendant Hall upon which the Plaintiff could arguably base a conspiracy claim. In his
response to Defendant Hall’s motion to dismiss, the Plaintiff states that he is involved in
a personal injury lawsuit and that his attorney in that case has been, in some
unspecified way, assisting Defendant Hall to “collect on an unlawful debt,” which the
Plaintiff alleges is related to a March 9, 2014 lien to collect on his child support
obligations. Doc. 26 at 3. Construing this allegation liberally, the Court could read this
as an attempt to allege an overt act on the part of Defendant Hall in furtherance of the
conspiracy with the other defendants. Any conspiracy claim based on this allegation
would have accrued when Defendant Hall communicated with the Plaintiff’s personal
injury attorney. See Wall v. Wall, 2009 WL 3110208, at *5 (M.D. Ala.) (“Because the
constitutional violation—and not the agreement—is the basis for liability, the statute of
limitations runs separately for each unlawful overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.”)
(quoting Grider v. City of Auburn, 628 F. Supp. 2d 1322, 1347 (M.D. Ala. 2009), aff'd in
part, rev'd in part on other grounds and remanded sub nom. Grider v. City of Auburn,
Ala., 618 F.3d 1240 (11th Cir. 2010)). As such, although the Plaintiff does not state
when this communication, or assistance, took place, assuming it occurred within two
years of the Plaintiff’s filing his complaint, a conspiracy claim based on this allegation
would not be barred by the statute of limitations. Regardless, any such claim fails. To
establish a conspiracy claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must prove: “(1) a violation of [his]
federal rights; (2) an agreement among the Defendants to violate such a right; and (3)
an [underlying] actionable wrong.” Williams v. Fulton Cty. Sch. Dist., 181 F. Supp. 3d
1089, 1148 (N.D. Ga. 2016) (alterations in original) (quoting Gibbons v. McBride, 124
F.Supp.3d 1342, 1379 (S.D. Ga. 2015); see also Grider, 618 F.3d at 1260. Based on
the evidence presented, a reasonable jury could not find that the Plaintiff established a
conspiracy claim under § 1983. The Plaintiff has presented no evidence that (1) the
alleged collaboration between Defendant Hall and the Plaintiff’s attorney violated the
Plaintiff’s federal rights or that (2) there was an underlying actionable wrong. Moreover,
other than the bare allegation of collaboration by Defendant Hall, the Plaintiff has
presented no evidence that there was any sort of agreement between or among the
Defendants. And there is no circumstantial evidence suggesting there was such an
agreement. See Am. Fed'n of Labor & Cong. of Indus. Organizations v. City of Miami,
FL, 637 F.3d 1178, 1192 (11th Cir. 2011) (stating that, for purposes of a conspiracy
claim, an agreement can be inferred “from the relationship of the parties, their overt acts
and concert of action, and the totality of their conduct”). As such, to the extent the
Plaintiff attempts to base a conspiracy claim on the alleged communication between his
attorney and Defendant Hall, the undisputed facts establish that the Defendants are
entitled to summary judgment.
Accordingly, the Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment as to his claims
under § 1983 are GRANTED, and those claims are DISMISSED with prejudice.
Claims under 18 U.S.C. §§ 241 and 242
The Plaintiff’s complaint also alleges the Defendants violated 18 U.S.C. §§ 241
and 242. Doc. 15 at 12-13. It is unclear whether the Plaintiff attempts to bring a claim
pursuant to these statutes or alleges a § 1983 claim based on the Defendants’ violation
of his rights under these statutes. Regardless, his claim fails. Sections 241 and 242
provide no private cause of action and, thus, cannot support a claim. Weidman v.
Blackstone Group, 2015 WL 1097385, at *4 n.3 (N.D. Ga.) (“Section 241 of Title 18 is a
criminal statute and provides no private cause of action in a civil suit.”); Harris v. Albany
Police Dep’t., 2014 WL 1773866, at *1 (M.D. Ga.) (“[S]ection 242 is a criminal statute
that provides no basis for civil liability or a private right of action.”). Moreover, §§ 241
and 242 do not provide individual rights but, instead, subject individuals to criminal
liability for violating rights conferred in other statutes. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 241, 242. To
have a cognizable § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must assert that a defendant’s conduct
“trammel[ed] a right secured by federal law.” Maynard v. Williams, 72 F.3d 848, 852
(11th Cir. 1996) (quotation marks omitted). As these statutes do not confer a right, they
cannot be the basis of a § 1983 claim. See id. Regardless, as stated, any § 1983
claims would be barred by the applicable statute of limitations. Accordingly, the
Defendants’ motions for summary judgment are GRANTED as to these claims, and
these claims are DISMISSED with prejudice.
IV. INJUNCTIVE AND DECLARATORY RELIEF
The Plaintiff also seeks injunctive and declaratory relief for his federal claims.
Doc. 15 at 14, 15. Because the Plaintiff’s federal claims fail, the Plaintiff is entitled to
neither declaratory nor injunctive relief for those claims. Moreover, the Plaintiff appears
to seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. Id. at 19. To the
extent he does so, this request fails because he cannot show a “substantial likelihood of
success on the merits.” Schiavo v. Schiavo, 403 F.3d 1223, 1225 (11th Cir. 2005).
Accordingly, that request is DENIED.
V. THE PLAINTIFF’S STATE LAW CLAIMS
As stated, all of the Plaintiff’s federal claims are dismissed. As such, the Court
declines to extend jurisdiction over the Plaintiff’s state law claims. See 28 U.S.C. §
1367(c)(3). Accordingly, those claims are DISMISSED without prejudice. Crosby v.
Paulk, 187 F.3d 1339, 1352 (11th Cir. 1999) (stating that, when a court declines to
exercise jurisdiction over state law claims, those claims should be “dismissed without
prejudice so that the claims may be refiled in the appropriate state court”).
VI. THE PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR CONTEMPT
The Plaintiff filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court
for the Middle District of Georgia on August 17, 2012. In re Richard Lewis Hall, Jr., No.
5:12-bk-52286 (Bankr. M.D. Ga. 2012). As a part of that proceeding, on November 20,
2012, the bankruptcy court granted the Plaintiff “a discharge under section 727 of title
11, United States Code.” Id. at Doc. 30. The Plaintiff now moves for contempt of court
against Defendant Susan Hall and the Division of Child Support Services of Houston
County, Georgia, who is not a named defendant in this action, alleging that their efforts
to collect child support payments violated the bankruptcy court’s discharge of his debts.
Doc. 27. Defendant Hall argues that the Plaintiff’s motion is not properly before this
Court. Doc. 31 at 3-5. The Court agrees.
The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Georgia retains
jurisdiction over the Plaintiff’s contempt motion. See Alderwoods Group, Inc. v. Garcia,
682 F.3d 958, 971 (11th Cir. 2012) (“[T]he Court that enters an injunctive order retains
jurisdiction to enforce [that] order.”). “It is settled that the court that issued the injunctive
order alone possesses the power to enforce compliance with and punish contempt of
that order.” In re McLean, 794 F.3d 1313, 1318-20 (11th Cir. 2015) (quotation marks
omitted) (quoting Alderwoods, 682 F.3d at 970) (holding that the United States
Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Alabama alone had jurisdiction to enforce the
discharge injunction); see also Jones v. CititMortgage, Inc., 666 F. App’x 766, 774-75
(11th Cir. 2016) (“A debtor who believes that the discharge injunction has been violated
may file a contempt action with the bankruptcy court that issued the discharge
injunction, not with another court.”). Accordingly, the Plaintiff’s contempt motion is
REFERRED to the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Georgia.
For the reasons stated, the Defendants’ Motions for Summary Judgment (Docs.
17; 21) are GRANTED. The Plaintiff’s federal claims are DISMISSED with prejudice,
and his state law claims are DISMISSED without prejudice because the Court
declines to exercise jurisdiction over those claims. The Plaintiff’s request for a
temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction is DENIED. Finally, the Plaintiff’s
Motion for Contempt (Doc. 27) is REFERRED to the United States Bankruptcy Court for
the Middle District of Georgia.
SO ORDERED, this the 7th day of November, 2017.
S/ Marc T. Treadwell
MARC T. TREADWELL, JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
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